February 14, 2011  nº 1.007 -  Vol. 9


"The need to be right is the sign of a vulgar mind."

Albert Camus


Insider's view: see how local concerns shape up the global world. Read the daily press review in Migalhas International.

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  • Top News

The next challenge for Egypt: the unknown

Egypt's ruling army council said it aims to hand power to a democratically elected government within six months, after almost three weeks of popular unrest ended 30 years of autocratic rule by Mubarak. The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces yesterday dissolved parliament, suspended the constitution and said it would rule until general elections take place. It pledged Friday to lift the country's emergency laws, which have been in place for nearly 30 years, as soon as circumstances improve.The council also formed a committee to introduce constitutional changes, according to a statement read on state television. Once the immediate euphoria over the resignation of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has passed, some challenging questions about the future there will have to be addressed. The popular revolution was a call for change, but there are still too many uncertainties to know what shape that change will take. When Mubarak finally relinquished his grip on power, the first and major demand of the protesters had been met. Egypt's way to democracy will be, at best, messy. One of the biggest unknowns centers on if and how Egypt's military will set out to meet the underlying demands from the protesters, such as lifting the three-decade state of emergency and rewriting Mubarak's restrictive constitution to allow true political reform. Going from authoritarian rule to military rule is far different than going from authoritarian rule to democracy. Key unanswered questions center on elections: When will they be held? How inclusive will they be? And what role with the youth movement that fueled the protests take, given that no single opposition figure has emerged as the next person to take Egypt into a new era? Nor is it known whether a new Egyptian government would open the common border with Gaza, something the Palestinian group Hamas — which rules Gaza — is already calling for. Israel relied on the Mubarak regime to help keep stability and adhere to the 1979 peace accord between the two countries. Over the weekend, the Egyptian military said that agreement would remain in place, news that was welcomed by Israel. But that's assured as long as the Egyptian military is in control. There are concerns that a new government could reconsider the accord.

Other Arab nations taking cue from Egypt

Arab leaders from the Persian Gulf to the Levant are responding to the fall of longstanding regimes in Egypt and Tunisia. So are their populations. Thousands are protesting in Algeria and Yemen, while leaders in Jordan, Syria and Bahrain are moving to head off public unrest.

Merger lawsuits increase -- as do the legal fees

Lawyers are pushing for a $4.5 million fee for their work for investors challenging a corporate merger. The recovery for shareholders? Probably zero. The requested fee in a lawsuit challenging Unilever NV's $3.7 billion takeover of Alberto Culver Co is part of a cottage industry of merger-related shareholder cases that are flooding U.S. state courts. Plaintiffs' lawyers say the legal actions are in response to a spike in corporate mergers that are unfriendly to shareholders. Companies, they say, are agreeing to sell businesses on the cheap in deals that benefit managers who are poised to get big payouts from the transactions. But merger-related litigation is also big business. Lawyers often put out notices just hours after takeovers are announced, seeking investors to challenge the tie-ups. Critics say something is wrong with a system that allows lawyers to collect handsome fees even when their clients appear to see little benefit. They say many cases are settled by companies who see them as nuisances, and that courts encourage more lawsuits by being too quick to sign off on such accords. Are stockholders really being protected? Or are people working a system and gaining at the expense of stockholders?

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  • MiMIC Journal

China is world's second economy

China overtakes Japan as the world's second-biggest economy, with analysts predicting it will keep moving towards the top spot. Japan has been hit by a drop in exports and consumer demand, while China has enjoyed a manufacturing boom. It's realistic to say that within 10 years China will be roughly the same size as the US economy.

China activist abused by authorities

Prominent Chinese rights activist Chen Guangcheng and his wife have been "beaten senseless" by authorities, according to Friday reports from China Aid and Hong Kong-based Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD). Chen, who is blind, is currently under house arrest, and the beating may have been related to a video released on Wednesday by China Aid in which Chen talks about the frustrating circumstances surrounding his confinement. In the video, Chen described the condition of confinement, including 24-hour surveillance, cut phone lines and the inability to receive medical attention.

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  • Brief News

Obama proposes mortgage overhaul

The Obama administration has proposed an overhaul of the US mortgage market that would limit the government's role in supporting home ownership. Under the proposals, the state-backed mortgage guarantee giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac would be wound down. The two firms have received almost $150bn in taxpayers' support since the US housing market collapsed. The administration has laid out three options: to only guarantee mortgages to poorer borrowers; support the mortgage market only in times of stress; or to guarantee mortgage investments created by private companies. The government currently owns or guarantees more than 90% of US mortgages.

Pakistan issues arrest warrant for former President Musharraf in death of Bhutto

An arrest warrant for former president Pervez Musharraf was issued Saturday by a Pakistani anti-terrorism court in connection with the assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto. The court determined Musharraf had not cooperated during the investigation of Bhutto's death, and investigators have alleged that Musharraf did not provide adequate security for Bhutto when she was assassinated during a campaign rally in Pakistan in 2007. According to an interim criminal charge sheet issued last week by the Federal Investigation Agency of Pakistan (FIA), Musharraf appointed and allegedly gave orders to the police officers accused of failing to protect Bhutto on the day she was assassinated. Specifically, the prosecution document alleges that Musharraf ordered the officers to remove a security detail for Bhutto prior to her departure and that he later ordered the same officers to hose down the scene of the assassination.

Tunisia rejects Italian call to send immigration police

The Tunisian government has condemned calls from Rome to deploy Italian police in Tunisia to tackle a sudden wave of migration. Tunisians rejected the idea of foreign troops on their soil, but said the cabinet would debate the issue. More than 4,000 migrants are reported to have arrived on the Italian island of Lampedusa in the past few days. Italy has declared a humanitarian emergency and called for EU assistance.

Swiss reject tighter gun controls

Voters in Switzerland - where gun suicide rates are high - reject proposed tighter controls on weapons ownership in a referendum. The current system allowing army-issue weapons to be kept at home will remain. Supporters of the tighter curbs wanted to have weapons kept in armories and were demanding stricter checks on gun owners. Opponents said the move would have undermined trust in the army.

Canada launches challenge against EU seal product ban

The Canadian government has launched a formal challenge against the EU over its ban on Canadian seal products. Canada asked the World Trade Organization (WTO) to establish a formal dispute resolution panel to review the EU ban and determine whether the ban complies with WTO rules. The ban was approved by the EU's 27 member states in 2009 and went into effect last year. The market for seal products has been cut by more than half in recent years. Canadian fisheries minister Gail Shea told reporters on Friday that Canada's fight was "a matter of principle".

US trade deficit widened by 33% in 2010

The US trade deficit ballooned in 2010 by the largest amount seen in a decade, Commerce Department figures have shown. The trade deficit - the difference between imports and exports - hit $497.8bn last year, up 32.8% on the year before, the biggest annual percentage gain since 2000. Imports from China hit record levels, totaling $364.9bn for the year.

Federal judge upholds Wal-Mart firing of medical marijuana user

A federal judge for the US District Court for the Western District of Michigan on Friday ruled that Wal-Mart did not wrongly fire an employee who had been using medical marijuana to treat a brain tumor. In dismissing plaintiff Joseph Casias' lawsuit, Judge Robert Jonker determined that the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act (MMMA) is in place to protect licensed medical marijuana users, but employers are not prohibited from adopting policies that ban marijuana use regardless of cause. Casias was administered a drug test per Wal-Mart policy, tested positive, and was subsequently notified of the termination of his at-will employment.

Trial of former Liberia president halted pending appeal

Judges for the Special Court of Sierra Leone (SCSL) on Friday indefinitely postponed closing arguments in the trial of former Liberian president Charles Taylor in order to allow the defense to appeal a prior decision. The SCSL will allow Taylor to appeal a ruling that denied the admission of a defense document due to untimely filing. Friday's court ruling comes following a boycott by Taylor and his lawyers of this week's closing arguments in protest of the court's decision to refuse to accept a written defense brief that was filed 20 days late. Taylor's lawyer, Courtenay Griffiths, said that he viewed the court's decision optimistically and expressed hope that the court's decision to hear the appeal is an indication that the remainder of the trial will be conducted in a reasonable manner.

Malaysia court charges suspected Somali pirates

Seven suspected Somali pirates appeared Friday in Malaysian court charged with firearms offenses and, if convicted, they could face the death penalty. Malaysia is the first Asian country to take formal legal action against suspect pirates. Under the Malaysian Firearms (Increased Penalties) Act of 1971, anyone who fires a gun with the intent to hurt another person and while committing a crime may be put to death. The suspects, who did not enter pleas, were arrested last month after allegedly firing at Malaysian authorities while hijacking a merchant ship in the Gulf of Aden. Three of the seven suspects are only 15 years old and will not face the death penalty because of their age. Magistrate Siti Shakirah Mohtarudin scheduled the trial for March 15 in Kuala Lumpur.

JPMorgan to start social media fund

The proposed fund is seeking to raise between $500 million and $750 million to pour into privately held technology companies like Twitter.

Food industry whistleblowers promised protection under new safety law

The new federal food safety law has gotten plenty of attention for provisions that aim to protect the public from foodborne illnesses. But a little-noticed section of the law that is supposed to protect workers at food companies who blow the whistle on their employers may — if it is effectively enforced — also prove to be significant for consumers. The Government Accountability Project, a watchdog group, sponsored a conference in Washington, D.C., last week to raise awareness of the first-ever private sector whistleblower protections enacted specifically for the food industry. "Whistleblowers are the informational lifeline to warn the public when government-approved food might be a public health hazard," "It occurs frequently because the regulatory system can't hope to catch all the violations through spot checks." Obama signed the Food Safety and Modernization Act last month. Section 402 of the 242-page law prohibits food companies from firing, or otherwise discriminating against, an employee who provides information to the federal government or a state attorney general about food safety violations.

  • Weekly Magazine Review

Time
2045: Singularity. The moment when technological change becomes so rapid and profound, it represents a rupture in the fabric of human history.

Newsweek
Egypt: How Obama Blew It. There is no more damning indictment of the administration’s strategic thinking than this: it never once considered a scenario in which Mubarak faced a popular revolt.

Business Week
Cheating, Incorporated. The Infidelity Economy. At Ashley Madison's website for "dating," the infidelity economy is alive, well, and profitable.

The Economist
Print me a Stradivarius. How a new manufacturing technology will change the world.

Der Spiegel
Wenn Ärzte irren - Risiko Fehldiagnose.

  • Daily Press Review

Army aims to restore Egypt normalcy
Al Jazeera, Doha, Qatar

Clashes in Bahrain before planned protest rally
Asharq Al-Awsat, Pan-Arab daily, London, England

Saudis welcome 'peaceful transition'
Egyptian Gazette, English-language, Cairo, Egypt

UAE residents share views on Valentine's Day
Gulf News, Independent daily, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Egypt presidential hopeful: Peace treaty with Israel is over
Haaretz, Liberal daily, Tel Aviv, Israel

CORRUPTION: Egyptians Can Claim Mubarak's Stolen Billions
IPS Middle East, International cooperative of journalists, Rome, Italy

Mohammed, French PM discuss relations
Khaleej Times, English-language daily, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Thousands of Italian Women Rally against Berlusconi over Sex Scandal
Nahamet, Online news portal, Beirut, Lebanon

Military rulers dissolve Egypt's parliament
Times of Oman, English-language daily, Muscat, Oman

Court hears Putin libel case
BreakingNews.ie, Online news portal, Cork, Ireland

Putin in libel case over TV claims
Daily Express, Conservative tabloid, London, England

ITALY: Fleeing Tunisian migrants land on Italian island
France 24, Issy-les-Moulineaux, France

Estonia's coalition to cement majority in vote, local media predicts
Hurriyet Daily News, (Liberal, English-language), Istanbul, Turkey

Jihadi who helped train 7/7 bomber free after five years
The Guardian, Liberal daily, London, England

No risk to Egypt-Israel ties: Ehud Barak
Daily Jang, Left-wing daily, Karachi, Pakistan

Egypt's army suspends constitution, sets 6-month timeline for elections
The Hindu, Left-leaning daily, Chennai, India

Protesters told to leave Cairo square
Canadian Broadcasting Centre, Toronto, Ontario

Court remands four female immigration personnel for murder
GhanaWeb, Online news portal, Amsterdam, Netherlands

Egypt's President Mubarak resigns, bank account blocked, 300 killed
Jimma Times, Online news portal, Jimma, Ethiopia

Egypt activists and army discuss reforms
Mail & Guardian Online, Liberal, Johannesburg, South Africa

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